If the government’s new counter-terrorism bill is passed workers in councils, schools, universities, prisons and the NHS will be legally required to act as spies.
They must report peoplesuspected of “radicalisation”.
This is the Prevent Strategy —that the government has used for years against Muslims—which is now being written in to law.
Even nursery teachers and child minders will be expected to report the children they look after.
Where the government feels the new rules haven’t been enforced strongly enough, the home secretary will have the right to take over and give “direction”.
In practice it has been largely an attempt to push Muslims out of political activity. But it is an attack on civil liberties for everyone.
Workers need to organise to stop Muslims being picked off and driven out of politics.
Home secretary Theresa May likes to give the impression that Prevent targets people who are “being drawn into terrorism”.
But in many towns—notably Bolton in 2010—Prevent money was used to stop young Muslims protesting when the English Defence League came to rampage through their areas.
May said in a speech last November that the policy will include universities having to introduce “extremist speaker policies”.
This meant Prevent also tried to stop a meeting featuring former Black Panther and Angola Three prisoner Robert King and former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Deghayes. Representatives approached the venue in Brixton, south London, in 2012 and unsuccessfully tried to get it pulled.
This is a reminder that the radicalisation the Tories fear is not just about terrorism, but is linked to anything that opposes their interests.
Federation of Student Islamic Societies vice president of student affairs Ibrahim Ali said, “Muslim students already feel like they are under increased surveillance. The measures outlined in this bill will only serve to reinforce those concerns”.
The biased nature of the Prevent strategy can be seen in the people put in place to enforce it.
Ghaffar Hussain, was appointed as Prevent Officer for Newham in London in December. He was previously Managing Director of the Quilliam Foundation.
This is the think tank that is trotted out whenever the media needs someone to demand Muslims apologise for a terrorist attack.
In this role he tried to rehabilitate Tommy Robinson, former leader of the racist English Defence League (EDL), in 2013 saying, “I believed Tommy when he told me that he is not a racist and does not hate ordinary Muslims.”
He ridiculed people who didn’t believe Robinson hadn’t noticed the EDL was a racist street gang as “the usual coterie of trendy wine bar types”.
He dismissed the movement against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as an alliance of Muslim extremists and the far left in a movement that he calls “Westophobia”.
Hussain was formerly an Associate Fellow of the right wing Henry Jackson society, whose patrons include neoconservative Richard Perle.
A teacher explained to Socialist Worker how the Prevent system is already being expanded in preparation for the new act.
“It casts a cloud of suspicion, particularly on Muslim members of staff.
“In effect people are being asked, ‘Which side are you on?’ If you raise the wars in the Middle East or Islamophobia you are “making excuses” for extremism.
“We were told to look out for extremists who set out to groom the vulnerable.
“They see it as comparable to child abuse.
“By this argument extremism is not a response to anything and it can’t be understood in terms of context.
“Our trainer was asked if the training session was to help us stop terrorists. ‘No,’ they said. ‘This is the pre-terrorist phase.’
“So was it about identifying people on the basis of their ideas? ‘No, people are allowed to have their ideas. We are worried about how they act on them.’
“They can’t say if it is about actions or ideas. They try and give a liberal gloss, but it keeps flaking off.
“We can’t stop the act being brought in now, but we can battle over how it is implemented.
“That will mean bringing together staff and students with wider forces such as local trade unions and mosques.”
The Counter Terrorism and Security Billl is currently approaching its final stages in parliament. Its provisions contain:
1. Police and UK Border Agency officials to be given the right to seize passports for up to 14 days.
2. Temporary Exclusion Orders, which can make a British citizen effectively stateless for up to two years and stop them entering Britain. The government says this is aimed at stopping people who have been radicalised and fought in wars, including in Syria.
3. The maximum punishment for contravening internal exclusion orders to extend to ten years’ imprisonment.
4. Government to take more power to intercept communications.
5. Inability to ban airlines from carrying some British passport holders. It could also make them enforce a racist “no fly policy” on some nationalities.
6. The Prevent Strategy to become a statutory requirement in places such as councils, schools, universities.
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